BEIJING”•President Rodrigo Duterte pushed his foreign policy pivot from the United States to China, saying he will no longer go to the US because he will only be insulted there and realigning himself with China and Russia.
“I will not go to America anymore” for assistance because “we will just be insulted there,” Duterte said of the Philippines closest ally since independence in 1946.
“I realign myself in your ideological flow and maybe I will also go to Russia to talk to Putin. There are three of us against the world. China, Philippines, Russia,” Duterte told Chinese government officials and business leaders who attended the Philippines-China Trade and Investment Forum.
With the “separation” from the US, Duterte said he would now be relying on the Chinese officials and businessmen.
“I announce my separation from the United States both in the military but economics also,” Duterte said. “I have separated from them so I will be dependent on you for a long time but don’t worry we will also help.”
Duterte over the past months stepped up his anti-US rhetoric after US officials, including US President Barack Obama expressed concern over the alleged extrajudicial killings blamed on his war on drugs.
The President also announced that October’s joint military exercises with the US would be the last under his term.
Foreign policy under Duterte has dramatically shifted from that pursued under predecessor Benigno Aquino III, who took Beijing to an international tribunal over its extensive territorial claims in the South China Sea — where it has built artificial islands capable of hosting military facilities–and won a resounding victory.
The move infuriated Beijing. But Duterte, who took office in June shortly before the tribunal ruling, has made a point of not flaunting the outcome.
He has also suspended joint US-Philippine patrols in the South China Sea, and has threatened an end to joint military exercises.
The South China Sea is of intense interest to Washington and it has repeatedly spoken out on the various territorial disputes between China and its neighbours over the strategically vital waters.
In 2012, China seized control of Scarborough Shoal, a fishing ground in the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone.
Tensions have risen between the US and China over Washington’s so-called “pivot” to the Asia-Pacific, a move that Beijing says is intended to contain it.
Hua Chunying, a spokeswoman for China’s foreign ministry, said Wednesday that Beijing “appreciates President Duterte’s efforts to crack down on drug crimes and improve social security with the fundamental interests and well-being of his country and people in mind.”
She also hailed Duterte’s efforts to seek a “soft landing” on territorial disputes in the South China Sea.
“China and the Philippines are returning to the right path of properly handling relevant issues through bilateral dialogue and consultation regarding the South China Sea issue,” Hua said. “Friendly neighbors are supposed to get along with each other in this way.”
In a press briefing in Beijing, Hua confirmed that the concerned agencies of the two countries are now discussing possible cooperation to combat illegal drugs in Manila.
“We are ready to talk with the Philippine side about cooperation on drug control and the fight against drug crimes,” Hua said.
“Competent authorities of the two countries are in communication on this,” he added.
Hua said that China gives the Philippines its full support to Duterte’s way of governance and that the economic superpower would play an active part in building Manila’s economy.
“China supports President Duterte in leading the Philippine people to build their country and develop the economy. We are willing to play an active part in the Philippines’ economic and social development and cooperate with the Philippines in economy and trade, industrial capacity and infrastructure,” she said.